If you’re a middle-aged woman, you may have noticed that you are having issues with urination. You’re not alone. Harvard Medical School reports almost 1 in 3 American women who are between the ages of 50 and 64 have complaints about issues of urinary incontinence. In comparison, 5 percent of men who are in this age group have some level of incontinence.
Is this emerging issue due to menopause or aging? Researchers are not sure; however, they do know that women who experience urogenital urination often find that they worsen with age. This condition is believed to be caused by both hormonal changes caused by menopause and changes in urinary anatomy caused by aging and childbirth.
Some menopausal women experience painful urination. This issue can be caused by atrophy – or decline of the muscle mass – of the urogenital area that includes both the vagina and the urinary tract. This atrophy is often caused by the loss of estrogen, which also inhibits a woman’s urinary tract from controlling urination. While the symptoms may include more frequent urges to urinate and incontinence, women also may experience vaginal dryness and itching as well as more frequent urinary tract infections.
Furthermore, the reduction of estrogen can lead to bacteria and yeast infections caused by the change of acidity in the vulva and vagina.
Women also may experience issues with their urinary tract after menopause due to pelvic organ prolapse. This condition causes the pelvic organs to drop into the vagina and damage the pelvic floor muscles.
Several lifestyle options are useful in supporting urogenital health. These include:
- Reducing the consumption of caffeine, alcohol and citrus juices.
- Stopping smoking.
- Keeping a healthy weight.
- Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Avoiding stress to the pelvic area.
- Doing bladder training techniques that ask women to hold urine for increasingly longer periods of time.
- Engaging in regular sexual activity, whether with a partner or alone, to maintain the health of vaginal tissues.
Medical options also are available, including:
- Electrical stimulation of the bladder muscles.
- Insertion of a device to hold up a prolapsed bladder.
- Insertion of a device in the urethra that blocks leakage.
- Surgery to restructure support for an organ that has prolapsed.
Changes in the urinary tract can result in some unpleasant situations for middle-age women. However, women can be proactive by making lifestyle changes. If necessary, medical procedures also are available to help women with urinary tract issues. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your health care provider if you are starting to experience issues with your urinary tract so that together you can develop a plan that works best for you.
Primary Resources for This Sharepost:
Harvard Medical School. (2009). Dealing With the Symptoms of Menopause.
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Vaginal Atrophy.
University of Colorado Urogynecology. (ND). Menopause & Urinary Symptoms.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.